The Wise Man’s Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss, is seven parts fascinating and three parts frustrating (give or take).
The sequel to The Name of the Wind is fascinating because it continues its predecessor’s tale-within-a-tale structure. Kvothe, the hero of the first book, spends a second day telling his life story to Bath, his assistant, and Chronicler, a traveling scribe. Kvothe’s adventures are still interesting, and the interludes in his inn—the site of the tale-telling—still add to the story.
But the new episodes aren’t conclusive, and herein lies most of the frustration. The Wise Man’s Fear barely progresses the series’ seeming endgame: the quest to confront the ancient demons that murdered Kvothe’s parents. There’s also little additional information about the books’ secondary conflict: the ongoing war and general chaos Kvothe somehow set in motion before retiring from the world. And like The Name of the Wind, The Wise Man’s Fear just kind of… ends. What passes for the climax—Kvothe’s rescue of two girls stolen from a small town—is unrelated to either of the larger storylines. I also could have done without the extended adolescent fantasy featuring Felurian, a Fae temptress. And some big events (Kvothe’s trial for using dangerous magic and his perilous journey to the city of Severen) were glossed over in unsatisfying fashion—why bring them up if they’re just going to be quickly narrated away?
I’m still in for the third book, though (whenever it’s available). Like the first two, I expect it will engross me while failing to stand alone. But as long as Rothfuss fulfills all the promises he’s made, I’m happy to judge the series as one extended—and extraordinary—story.
Even if I’ll always wish the stopping points had been more compelling than Kvothe basically saying, “It’s getting late; let’s hit the hay and pick things up tomorrow.”
For more reviews like this one, sign up for Nick’s monthly newsletter.